Everett permit tech Sheyenne Morton and residential plan reviewer Ryan Hammer help a general contractor with some permit application work at the Everett Public Works permit office Wednesday. The proposed 2023 budget includes additional positions for the unit. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Everett permit tech Sheyenne Morton and residential plan reviewer Ryan Hammer help a general contractor with some permit application work at the Everett Public Works permit office Wednesday. The proposed 2023 budget includes additional positions for the unit. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Budget dips, but Everett city union workers in line for 7.5% pay bump

The city’s general government fund could drop $1 million. City leaders say the current path is not sustainable.

EVERETT — Wages likely are rising for hundreds of Everett city employees in unions, while pension contributions are on hold and the general government fund that pays for most city services is proposed to drop $1 million from the original 2022 budget.

Washington State Council of County and City Employees union members who work for Everett are in line to get a 7.5% pay bump next year in a two-year tentative agreement. About 400 employees are represented in that union, which was collecting votes on the deal.

Further wage increases between 3% and 5% are set to follow in 2024. The specific number is tied to the Consumer Price Index. Bargaining would reopen if the figure exceeds 7%, Everett Local 113 union representative Roger Moller said.

Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin first proposed a $543.2 million citywide budget in September. At the time, she announced she wouldn’t ask the council to seek voter approval for additional tax revenue.

Instead, the proposed budget stays the course amid economic uncertainty and high inflation, as well as ongoing concern of the city’s costs rising faster than revenue.

Another 28 employees could join the city’s ranks next year. Some of those positions are expected to be restored after layoffs and reductions in 2020. City leaders reviewed staffing needs over the past year that led to proposed additional positions, such as in human resources to help with recruiting employees, permit services and paramedics.

“Staffing was cut back very severely in 2020 in response to the pandemic’s impact on city resources,” finance director Susy Haugen told the council during its meeting Nov. 16.

The City Council is reviewing the proposed 2023 budget for adjustments, especially in the $155.3 million general government fund. Wages and benefits make up the bulk of expenses in the general fund, which includes community development, fire, library, police, parks and planning.

Dozens of incoming and outgoing permit documents are lined up on a table at the Everett Public Works permit office Wednesday. Additional staff in the proposed 2023 budget could help address the turnaround time for permit applications. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Dozens of incoming and outgoing permit documents are lined up on a table at the Everett Public Works permit office Wednesday. Additional staff in the proposed 2023 budget could help address the turnaround time for permit applications. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

The union previously had three-year contracts, but worked with the city to change it so various labor agreements would be on staggered schedules, instead of mostly falling on the same year, which happened this year.

There were no major changes to benefits, outside of a higher accrual rate for vacation and more bereavement leave, Moller said. Competition for workers across city departments in the region was a boon for the union in contract negotiations, he said.

“The one refrain that I hear from the employer is that people are leaving faster than we can hire them,” Moller said.

The city also was close to agreements with the Everett Police Officers Association, Everett Police Management Association, firefighters and Snohomish County Construction Crafts unions.

The general government fund’s $1 million dip comes mostly from two sources. One is from less money for maintenance of city buildings, the other is suspension of contributions to the fire and police pension fund, Haugen wrote in an email. City leaders consider those cuts to be unsustainable.

Almost every city department is feeling the squeeze of higher costs. While many departments saw their budgets trimmed, others received only modest increases. The streets fund that pays for road work, for example, received only $15,000 more than last year despite pressing needs.

“Most departments didn’t get (maintenance and operations) increases, but this department desperately needed it,” Franklin told the council.

Backlogs for permit applications could get addressed with staff additions for a permit business analyst, building plans examiner, chief inspector and traffic plan reviewer.

A yearlong study of the Everett Police Department found it needed nine more positions, among other changes. But the mayor’s proposed budget calls for adding only one position for a police crime analyst, as well as more money for overtime.

The city’s fire department budget could grow $2 million without adding any positions. The bulk of that growth would be in increases from the union contract that took effect earlier this year, as well as $689,000 set for additional overtime.

The council is expected to approve the budget at an upcoming Wednesday meeting this month.

Ben Watanabe: bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3037; Twitter @benwatanabe.

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